Will Steve Jobs Be Time’s Next Person of the Year?

Steve Jobs has been nominated to be the 2011 Time Person of the Year. Join us as we take a brief look into why he’s being considered, who nominated him and the interesting history he has with this very title.

A Fallen Hero

The passing of Steve Jobs hit the tech community hard. The heroes of the modern computing revolution are largely still living and even though Jobs went far before his time, this event serves as a harsh reminder that the young, crazy hotshots who changed the world thirty years ago are becoming old men.

“Every home and indeed every pocket in the developed world has been affected by the achievements of this man. ”

That phrase, “changed the world” isn’t hyperbole, especially when it comes to Jobs. In fact, Mario Batali recently went so far as to say (in the context of a Jobs conversation), “I’m definitely of the belief that smartphones, the cell phone with photographic capability, has changed the world as much as the Bible has.”

Though that’s taking this idea uncomfortably far, I see what he means. Every home and indeed every pocket in the developed world has been affected by the achievements of this man.

Steve Jobs: Person of the Year?

Batali made that statement in light of a recent nomination that Jobs received for the Time Person of the Year, given by NBC anchor Brian Williams.

This tradition (formerly known as Man of the Year) dates all the way to 1927 with Charles Lindbergh taking the first slot. Other notable recipients include Gandhi, Franklin D. Roosevelt (three times!), Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are both former Men of the Year”

Keep in mind though that this award isn’t always granted as a confirmation of positive achievements but is meant to reflect influence. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are both former Men of the Year. However, if Jobs were to win, this would in fact be the first time the title is given posthumously. Voting for the Person of the Year has yet to take place, we won’t know who won until around the middle of December.

Familiar Ground

Surprisingly enough, Steve Jobs has never been the Time Person of the Year, but he has come fairly close according to Walter Isaacson’s recent biography on the life of Steve Jobs.

The tale is a sort of tragedy though and did not turn out well for Jobs (spoiler alert). According to Isaacson, Jobs actually believed that he was slotted to be the Man of the Year in 1982, and looking back many would say that he deserved it for the work he was doing at the time on the Macintosh. In fact, he had already graced the magazine’s cover in February of that year for an article about a new breed of risk takers who were “Striking it Rich.”

“Jobs admitted that the article was so bad that it made him cry. ”

Jobs brought a Time reporter by the office and enthusiastically encouraged employees to give interviews. In the book Jobs recalls excitedly seeing that specific issue of the magazine for the first time and expecting to find himself on the cover. Instead what he discovered was that Time had thrown everyone a curve ball by generically choosing “the computer” as the “Machine” of the Year.

When Steve opened up the magazine, he saw that it got much worse. Accompanying the cover story was a very personal profile of him heavily focused on some of his more negative and eccentric characteristics such as publicly crying at meetings and fathering an illegitimate and forsaken child (Lisa). Jobs admitted that the article was so bad that it made him cry.

The Rest of the Story

For Steve, this particular run in with the folks at Time turned out to be a disaster, but it’s not the end of the story. Jobs went on to appear on the cover of Time seven times while he was living and (thus far) once after his death. It seemed he was always coming up with some great new device to change everything (the Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iPad, etc.) and Time was more than happy to highlight those accomplishments.

Obviously, we AppStormers are rooting for Jobs to win out over the other candidates (such as “angry people” and Elizabeth Warren). As I mentioned above, given his work to bring the personal computer to the masses, he likely deserved the title in 1982. Now in 2011 as we look around our world, it’s nearly impossible to imagine it without the ripples of his influence present in personal computing, digital music, even animation.

What do you think? You’re obviously a biased audience given that you’re reading a Mac blog, but we still want to hear your opinion. Should Steve Jobs be the 2011 Person of the Year? Do you think he will be?


Add Yours
  • Think really carefully about the year that has been, and try to remember a name that moved the world so much. When Steve died, the world stood still. I was talking to my friends about how iOS 5 would change their everyday life and pulled up the apple website on my iPhone. What greeted me at the home page caught me off guard. I mean, everyone knew he was sick. But this? It was almost as if I imagined Steve as a sort of superhuman from the future, slowly feeding us the technological secrets from another dimension. But that shock horror I felt when I saw his face and the 1955-2011 text, I haven’t felt that sort of emotion about anyone else all this year. Surely a man that can move you with that amount of force has to be featured by TIME. If they don’t, then that figurative beach just got one more head stuck in it.

  • Crikey! My old Nokia 6500 slider, and others before it, sported quite a good camera, and email and web access, among other things. Is the world going to give Steve Jobs credit for all those phone features, long predating the iPhone? What’s next — the invention of a machine for watching moving pictures, or listening to music?

    • Right.. ’email’ and ‘web access’. Nokias have always been a joke in terms of usability. They are good for durability (most the time) and battery life. Look what happened since the iPhone came out? Nokia’s market share has been plummeting. My old 1995 computer could do email and web too! It’s about how it’s implemented. Email is not new… it’s just like snail mail. How unoriginal! :O

  • I think hero is a strong word to use to describe Steve Jobs. He was many things but a hero he was not. He was a great man with extraordinary vison that changed the face of the tech industry. He was not a god, a prophet a saint, or really even an inventor. He was one hell of an editor that refined existing technologies. Thats is all. I’m not trying to start a flame war, I’ve been a loyal mac user since the first iMac, ipod, iphone but I really wish people would stop idolizing like he could do no wrong.

    • I’m not suggesting that he fought in a war or anything, a hero is someone admired for outstanding achievements… that title fits Jobs quite well!

  • I agree in thinking that “hero” may be too ambiguous as a definition for Steve Jobs. Nonetheless, that such an extraordinary character has never been nominated person of the year is frankly unconceivable. There can be no doubt that he changed the world, and even if he was a flawed human being (as Isaacson’s book testifies), his talent and vision are unparalleled and will be so for a long time, IMO.

  • A little late for this. Shouldn’t they have done it while he was alive?

    • Agreed, Jobs revolutionized the world in the 00s and likely deserved it several times during that period. The world was a tumultuous place though in that time period so the emphasis on political figures is understandable.

  • All I can say is, if he doesn’t get it there’s something fishy going on. Look at the influence he had in today’s world. I’m not going into details since it has been chronicled many times over.

  • Um no. Maybe the year the first iPhone came out, but not this year. If they did it now, they’d only be doing it to make up for not doing it when he was alive. I looked at the candidate list and thought some other people/groups were more worthy than Steve. I’m biased though. I have a mac but I was never a fan of SJ.

  • Who even reads this magazine?

  • If he is voted as Man of the Year this year, it will be to make up for the fact that they didn’t when he was alive. HOWEVER, that is not a bad reason to do it at all. People win Nobel Prizes posthumously and many mainstream Hollywood awards are given posthumously. The Man of the Year should reflect a person who has had a large impact on the world and done something which others can’t do. Clearly, Steve Jobs had a large impact on the world and in this year, he proved how much a public figure can be mourned (http://www.apple.com/stevejobs/).

  • ‘In fact, Mario Batali recently went so far as to say (in the context of a Jobs conversation), “I’m definitely of the belief that smartphones, the cell phone with photographic capability, has changed the world as much as the Bible has.”

    Though that’s taking this idea uncomfortably far, I see what he means.’

    Uncomfortably far for who exactly? Remember that it wasn’t so much the bible that changed the world but it’s violent proponents who spread it through fear and forced conversions. The extreme majority (especially prior to the last couple of hundred years) of christians have never read the book, so claiming that it itself changed the world is ludicrous.

    Sorry about the off topic comment but this struck me as being too stupid to not point out.

    As far as Jobs receiving the Person of the Year award from TIME, it’s like you said, there were a number of times where his contributions SHOULD have won it for him but he was overlooked. If he wins this year it will be much more of a ‘we should have done this years ago’ thing as all of whoever it is that decides who wins emails their votes in from their iPhones.

    • No need to turn this thread into a religious flame war, stay on topic. I think to doubt that Batali was trying to make an uncomfortable conclusion is to undermine his statement. He meant it to be a bold claim and it was. That’s the extent of my point.

  • It’s important to note that this award is for person of the year which means – influence that person made in this year. Although Steve deserved that place several times before – it would be unethical of Time to award him this type of an award now because it would simply be a popular move. Person of the decade? OK. Some other type of an award? Sure.